HHS Proposes ‘IT Control Tower’ to Manage Strategic National Stockpile

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The proposal is part of a larger strategy to incorporate the manufacturing, distribution and point-of-care sectors.

As the nation’s strategic stockpile of pandemic response resources dwindles, the Health and Human Services Department is looking at how to overhaul the program, including creating an overarching IT infrastructure to coordinate, manage and analyze supplies across the public and private sectors.

A request for information posted to beta.SAM.gov outlines the agency’s plan to rearchitect the strategy behind the Strategic National Stockpile to ensure better reserves are available to handle future emergencies.

In times of crisis, “The supplies, medicines and devices for lifesaving care contained in the stockpile are to be used as a short-term, stopgap buffer when the supply of sufficient amounts of these materials may not be immediately available,” the RFI states. 

In order to meet these needs in the future, the new strategy proposes meeting four objectives:

  • More coverage: Ensure sufficient reserve of 100% of major items associated with coronavirus-like pandemics.
  • More insights: Utilize predictive analytics to forecast requirements.
  • More capability: Utilize various inventory management strategies and improve visibility, providing real-time insights into supply and demand.
  • Less vulnerability: Enhance domestic manufacturing capacity to reduce dependence on foreign sources of supply.

HHS is looking at expanding partnerships to achieve this. To date, the agency has already teamed with the Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency to “support procurement and to manage and oversee SNS activities.”

Moving forward, HHS wants to focus on public-private partnerships with manufacturers, commercial distributors and point-of-care operations, such as pharmacies and hospitals.

“This includes drawing upon industry partners to store and manage inventory, contract reserved capacity, and provide logistics services to allow for rapid identification of and distribution of supplies to hotspots,” the RFI states.

In order to coordinate across so many sectors, each with its own diverse set of industries and organizations, HHS plans to build a Supply Chain IT Control Tower that connects all stakeholders, enabling better communication, federal visibility into the scope of the stockpile and the ability to run analytics on storage, capacity, demand and consumption, among other things.

Along with the focus on the IT infrastructure for the control tower, HHS is also interested in hearing about how technologies can help supplement the stockpile and supply chain.

For instance, the RFI asks respondents whether there are “emerging technologies transforming the logistics sector—e.g. 3D printing, blockchain, automation in warehouse and delivery operations, etc.—that we should build into our vision now?”

The document is clear that the request for information is just that: asking for public feedback on the proposed strategy, not for “proposals, proposal abstracts or quotations.” Instead, HHS is looking for input on the objectives for the next-gen stockpile and whether the agency “missed anything major in articulating our vision.”

The RFI also seeks to garner more information about how certain sectors—especially those producing and distributing pandemic-response goods like personal protective equipment and ventilators—can ramp up production when needed and how the government can prepare now to support those ramp-ups, rather than physically storing goods in the stockpile. The notice on beta.SAM.gov includes a PowerPoint deck outlining the specific strategies being considered for various goods.

Responses are due by 2 p.m. May 29.